Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blizzards and danger around every corner

So it took me the better part of an afternoon and 3 different low quality movie editing programs, but I finally put together the videos from the Sea-ice festival which was held in my city, Monbetsu last weekend. It was a lot of fun while it lasted. There were lots of different food stalls set up, which is my favourite part of any festival and there were tons and tons of amazing ice sculptures. There was a huge snow maze which was built by the army and had 13 foot walls. We got lost in it for the better part of 15 minutes the other day. I am pretty sure there was only one entrance though, which in my opinion defeats the purpose. But for all I know there could have been someone waiting at the real goal with a big sack of money. We ended up just retracing out steps to get out. My friend Shunta and his dad are part of the snowmobile club so we got some free snowmobile rides! It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Let me tell you that the difference between 120km/h on a motorcycle and 120km/h on a snowmobile is enormous. Anyway. I will let the video speak for itself. Its me and Steve on the tube and banana boat and then a quick tour of the festival. If it looks empty its because we were hit with two, 15 minute blizzards right before and everyone had run for their lives.
video

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hold on a minute... or two.

So as usual, I am here to dissapoint. I was going to put up a video and pictures from the Sea-ice festival, but editing is turning into a pain. I desperately need new editing software. The program that came with my camcorder is just not cutting it. Who would have thought? Anyway. I do have a cell phone video which I hope you appreciate. I hope you aren`t korean though because you might not agree with the fact that I find Shunta`s singing hilarious. For those who don`t speak basic Korean, Shunta is just repeating "spicy-cabbage", "thank-you" and "hello" over and over again..... It never gets old. And can you believe he can do it to ANY SONG??? total jokes.

**** Video has been fixed ****
video

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The sea-ice is here, the sea-ice is here!

I have been pretty hard on the sea-ice this year. All I heard about Monbetsu was how much sea-ice we get during the winter and then I get here and its friggin February and there is still nothing! But all that changed yesterday, because we now officially have sea-ice in the harbour. It quite literally appeared overnight, which seems to be some sort of February miracle. I say this because our Sea-ice Festival starts tomorrow. It must have been some wierd act of a god to cut it this close. I guess all those virgins and babies we burned in ritual sacrifice are finally starting to pay off. I`m sure there will be pictures to follow soon :)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pancakes!

Here`s my breakfast. It was the last of the consumables in my apartment and I scrounged them together to get this. Luckily I had sold one of my kidneys for a quarter pound of blueberries the month before.....

Monday, February 02, 2009

Post Holiday Photo Edition

Here are some pictures which I completely forgot I took. This might have been due to the fact that travelling from Canada back to Japan was even more stressful than the last. I had to worry about getting to a strange hotel and getting my bags and everything. What I did was land in Narita, take the shuttle to Haneda(1 hour), find a locker to keep my non-essential luggage, take another train to Shinjuku(1 hour) and get to a hotel. I was worried about missing my "reservation" time which would mean I was charged on my credit card and would then have to book again. I landed at 3 and had to be there by 6..... I got to the hotel at 7:30 which had to have been some kind of record and it turned out that they didn`t have my reservation anyway. Sorta annoying. They wanted to know which website I had reserved on, which is not something I thought I had to remember. I know which HOTEL I had reserved since that seemed pertinent to me. I did not remember which travel site I had used. Anyway. Booking wasn`t a problem. It ended up being a decent capsule hotel in the heart of Shinjuku. If you don`t know what a capsule hotel is then click here. Note of interest. Those pictures are not from the hotel I stayed at but were the EXACT same capsules I slept in. Circa 1970. Still, for $40 not too shabby. The hot baths and facilities were still top notch. The one I stayed in in Sapporo was WAY more modern for the record.I didn`t take a ton of pics because I was in a huge rush to get there, and I ended up sleeping right after I bathed. I was going to go out again and picture the night-life I swear.... heh heh. Sleep won. Then in the morning, I was so sleepy so only snapped a few. Its pretty quiet at 6am.

I am a fan of train stations in Japan. So many wires!

Really early morning train commuters. I saw lots of young adults in groups just coming home after all-night karaoke sessions.... Ah, to be in Fukuoka again.

More of the train station jungle.

This was at around 7:15. I got to the airport 15 mintues after it opened and 4 hours before my flight. I had a bit of walking around time... I found a big blue cow statue, which I didnt understand. It might be like that moose thing that we have in Canada. This one had a bunch of constelations on it. I wanted to touch it but I couldn`t. There was a metal tube around it and an invisible electric field which I found the hard way.
I almost stopped here for breakfast. Anyone who knows me know I love a hardy pimento-loaf breakfast spread. Actually I ended up just getting some delicious 7/11 riceballs! They are seriously the only food I need when I travel. Tuna, rice, seaweed. Nuff said. Plus I am addicted to the smell of early morning convenience stores in Japan. Anyone who has been here will agree I think.
And finally, here is the long-awaited(mostly this is an imagined long-awaited status that only exists in my mind) list of strange Japan-only special Edition! And I am going to do the cast rundown like its a highschool volleyball yearbook photo.
Front row, Left to right: Limited Time Bacon Sour Creme, Limited Time European Selection Italian Pizza, Stimulatingly DELICIOUS(I shit you not) EXTREME Mushroom.
Back row, Left to right: Limited Time Honey Roast Chicken, Summer Selection Keema Curry, Autumn Selection Smoky Salami.
Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. The advertisers really know how to sell a chip here.
This is just a picture of my dinner. Tonkatsu and steamed rice. Don`t get much better than this. Probably my best homemade tonkatsu yet. I just wish I had some pickles to go with it.... *le sigh*

Christmas break edition

It occurred to me that the last entry may have been lacking in anything entertaining to the viewer, so I am going to try to improve (hard not to) on my last attempt.
Coming home for Christmas was pretty the most anticipated thing to me in recent history. I was counting down the days religiously, and was so looking forward to being home with friends and family and significant others. The concept itself of travelling from Hokkaido to Canada for the holidays seems straight-forward and if my life were a movie it might have been so. For whatever reasons, the gods have conspired to create a place in the world where leaving can be both long-winded and very expensive. Because of Monbestu`s location, getting anywhere is a bit of a pain. We have an airport…. Sadly there is only one flight a day, and that one flight only comes and goes on certain days. So I got home by:
-->Taking a 4 hour bus ride (the distance is only about the distance from Hamilton to Toronto, but there are billions of mountains in the way)
-->Staying in a hotel overnight (the bus didn`t arrive early enough to allow me to leave the same day)
-->Taking a 2 hour plane ride to Tokyo and finally getting on a plane to N. America
-->Connecting in Los Angeles for my flight to Toronto
Total travel time took roughly 40 hours and involved me almost having my flights cancelled due to a big snow storm, and I had to sit next to the two most obnoxious people from Los Angeles and listen to them chit-chat with the two worst Air Canada employees alive. Their inane prattle had me seriously hoping our plane would crash just to end it all. (They were complaining how badly people dress in New York amongst other things and he was wearing cords and construction boots… I rest my case). They could have powered the plane with the hot air these a-holes were producing. When he wasn`t on the phone talking about how much money he spends, he was on the phone picking new ringtones at full volume. The level of douche-baggery on this flight was blinding. I`m not bitter, I swear.
Anyhoo, Christine and I did lots of fantastic things over the break, like sleeping in and going to Niagara , shopping related things and general tomfoolery, We even got to go see some movies which was nice coming from a town with no movie theatre within 50 miles. I also got to spend Christmas with the family, which was really nice and ate so much I put on almost 10 pounds in just under 3 weeks (that’s just under 1 stone for any U.K. readers, har har). So there are probably pictures now showing stuff that happened.

The reason I returned to Japan a fat tub of goo. My mom`s sweet, sweet homecooking!

SEEE? We`re getting up to some pretty insane tomfoolery
We even visited my mom at her job. Warplane Heritage glory!!!
Mmmmm, pure man-made glory. Yeah, I said it. It was built by man. Crack a dictionary Poindexter.

Everything was as frozen as frozen could be. Everything that could be frozen was frozen, even Asian tourists.
Bill couldn`t take the cold so he thought the 300 foot drop would end the suffering. I had to quickly forge his Last Will and Testament signing all his things over to me before my hands froze.
The best part of the Falls was all the random shit they have everywhere. Like a poor/homless man`s Vegas. More wax museums per square km. than anywhere else in the world.

Time for Tim Hortons. A Canadian staple.
Best part about going to Niagara Falls to see the big coloured spotlights? NO FRIGGIN LIGHTS. We apparently went on the only day they don`t light up any of the falls. They didn`t even have the christmas lights on. Still fun.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Hmmm, I have some pictures and some updates I need to post and seeing as it has been an entire century(in eunuch years) since my last blog I will break it into two parts. The first will be some things from before the Winter break, and the second will be any pictures and comments from during the break. Spoiler: Darth Vader built C-3PO.
To start off, I purchased a new pair of glasses while in Sapporo during one of our many business related meeting dates. I liked my old pair but at $50 a pop and a 30 minute waiting period, I had to hit that. It was a good thing I did because Steven bought a berry similar pair to the spectacles I was sporting. What resulted was an epic battle of myopic might, ferocious far-sighted fury, and a suprisingly squinty struggle. In the end my bitterness was but a mere shadow to the happiness and coolness the new peepers.
Two days before Winter break, my Board of Ed. held some sort of New Year party. I had skipped the last one, so I went to this one(in hindsight, not a good idea). Firstly, it was the most expensive party I have attended with a $60 fee. This was because it was held at a fancy hotel in town. Now let me begin by saying that I thought this was a fun, work get-together type of party, so I was excited to get to relax and just eat and drink with my coworkers. What it turned out to be was a dinner with 30 people I didn`t know from high in the BOE hierarchy and most of the supervisors/high-up staff at my BOE. Basically all the people I feel uncomfortable around. The worst part was, I was told the clothes I was wearing that day were ok to wear(jeans and a collared shirt). When I got home I changed anyway and came wearing business casual and a nice blazer. This was the best decision EVER(because japanese people will lie to you ANY chance they get, but seriously, I jest) Everyone was really formal and wearing full-on suits and ties. I spent the night inwardly cursing my supervisor for giving my hillbilly ensemble the A-OK. Long story medium-short, the food was fancy and in small amounts(NOT COOL for the all you can eat fare) and the beer was refilled not nearly fast enough by the servers. On the upside there was a crab pool in the lobby.... REDEMPTION GET!!!!
Oh and on a side not, the evening wasn`t a total loss. I got to practice Japanese, which led to a manager making it his personal quest to get a water filter for my shower. NO MORE RUSTY SHOWERS!!!! coming soon! Plus we played bingo and I won $50 in gift cards, on top of $10 the afore-mentioned manager gave me from his win. I could have used them at any store, but I bought a butt-load of groceries instead. I bought more than I could carry and it only cost me 700 yen.